Noel Colon enters his third season as the head boys’ basketball coach at Harrison High School and while the Blue Tide players are more comfortable with Colon at the helm, the coach realizes that it’s a different perspective every year.
“Every year presents a different challenge,” said Colon, who was a standout player during his heyday at both North Bergen High and Ramapo College. “Unless you have a veteran team, there are going to be challenges. You just try to do your best for the team.”
Colon faced different obstacles in each of his first two years with the Blue Tide.
During the first year, the Blue Tide raced out to a 5-1 record.
“But then we won just two games the rest of the way,” he said.
Last year, Harrison got off to a slow start, losing their first four games.
“We then went 17-3 the rest of the way,” Colon said of his team that finished with a 17-8 record a year ago.
“You try to balance out the guys who played for you before and you know what they bring to the table,” Colon said. “You then have the new guys and it’s interesting to see how they develop. Right now, the kids are working hard. The effort is there. The younger ones just need to learn the game on a consistent basis. If they do that, then we should be able to be competitive in our league.”
The Blue Tide finished second in the NJIC Liberty Division race to Dwight- Englewood last year, but should be able to compete for top honors this season.
“From January on, we were the best team in the league last year,” Colon said. “We improved a lot in the second half of the season.”
One of the major reasons why Colon is so optimistic about the coming season is the return of junior guard Quincy Rutherford, one of the most talented basketball players to come from Harrison in a long time.
The 6-foot-3 Rutherford, who can play either guard position, averaged 16 points per game last year. There were rumors that Ru therford was being wooed to transfer to another school, but Colon denied those reports.
“He was with us all summer,” Colon said. “I never heard a word about it. He’s a tremendous player. He’s gotten bigger and stronger since last year. We need more rebounding out of him. He’s a big guard and he’s very versatile, but he has to go get rebounds for us. We need him to take pride in rebounding the basketball. But no question, when you have a player of that caliber, you feel pretty good about your chances.”
Colon thinks that Rutherford can only enhance the skills of his teammates.
“He needs to trust his teammates more and he needs to make his teammates better,” Colon said of Rutherford, who was First Team All-NJIC last year and should earn All Hudson County honors this year.
Another returnee is sophomore guard Johnathan Leiras, who had moments of brilliance last year as a freshman. The 5-foot-10 Leiras had a 21-point outing against Ridgefield and scored 16 in the Martin Luther King Classic at Union City High School last season.
“He was doing real well, then had a foot injury,” Colon said. “I expect him to be a little more consistent this year. He needs to be a little more creative.”
Sophomore Timothy Danielian is a 6-foot-2 forward.
“Of all the players in our program, he’s the one who has improved the most,” Colon said of Danielian.
“He’s a very good athlete. He can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. He has a nice shot. He played a lot this summer and understands the role he has on the team. He’s going to help us if he doesn’t try to do too much,” Colon said.
Another key addition is senior Piotr Namiotko, the 6-foot-5 volleyball superstar who is playing basketball for the first time. Namiotko will be one of the top five returning volleyball standouts in the state come spring time, but for now, he’s going to play hoops.
“He’s a very good athlete who can obviously jump,” Colon said. “He understands his role. He brings that winning volleyball attitude to our team. He’s a good rebounder and that’s what we need him for. But much like he does in volleyball (leading the Blue Tide to a state sectional title last spring), he wants to win.”
Senior Craig Ruff is another solid basketball player. The 6-foot-1 Ruff, a forward, will see a lot of time this season.
“He’s a tough kid, a very strong kid,” Colon said. “He does all the little things you need. He’s going to have a bigger role this year. I think he’s going to have a big year for us.”
Junior Adam Mobus is a 5-foot-10 guard who was a solid player as a freshman, but didn’t finish out the year last year.
“So far, so good this year,” Colon said. “He’s 100% dedicated to the program. He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid who plays the game hard. He’s also a good shooter who defends well. He’s going to help us if he remains committed.”
Baseball standout Marquis Valentin is also back for another go on the hardwood. The 6-foot-2 Valentin is a strong inside presence.
“All he wants to do is help the team win,” Colon said. “He wants to help with rebounding. He can turn out to be a good basketball player.” Junior Joseph Rendors is a 5-foot-10 guard.
“He’s going to get a chance to play if he keeps grabbing the coaching staff ’s attention in practice,” Colon said. “Right now, he’s playing well.”
The Blue Tide opens the season Dec. 18 against Queen of Peace.
“I like the kids,” Colon said. “They’re very coachable. If everyone buys in to their roles, we have a good chance to be competitive.”
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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”